Jim Siergey: The Walk

March 22nd, 2017

The wife and I were walking through the neighborhood on our way to the UPS Store.

As we were ambulating down a side street, coming toward us was a FedEx driver pushing a handcart loaded with packages, all different sizes and shapes.

As we neared one another, being the friendly and sociable person that I am, I said to the fella one of those incisive statements that accentuates one’s sense of awareness and acuity. You know, like “Hey, you got a haircut” or “Nice day if it don’t rain”. I chose to say, “That’s quite a load you’ve got there.”

Ever the wit, am I.

He walked right on by, with nary a glance or a blink.

lebronjamesheadphonesEveryone wears headphones…

 

I said to my wife “Well, he’s young. ” He looked to be in his twenties. “I didn’t realize that until it was too late.”

“Plus”, my wife added, “He was wearing ear buds.”

We carried on to our destination, took care of our business there and then continued our little side street constitutional toward home.

As we approached a corner, a Fed-Ex truck was parked, blocking the crosswalk.

“Oh, look”, I exclaimed, “There’s the truck that belongs to my friend. I’ll bet he’d like to talk some more.”

To my wife’s chagrin, I craned my neck and looked about for the young driver.

“Please don’t.” she pleaded.

“Oh, he probably feels bad about inadvertently snubbing me. I’ll bet he’s looking forward to meeting up with me again to make amends. He probably loves to talk.”

As my wife grabbed my arm and guided me across the street, I still searched longingly for my new friend, the ear-budded FedEx driver, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Relationships can be so fleeting.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was What’s Next

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Randolph Street: High Steppin’

March 22nd, 2017

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Parade–Carlinville Illinois

 

These pictures are from a 1971 Truckin’ contest at Blackburn College.

 

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Fives–Carlinville Illinois

 

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Steppin’–Carlinville Illinois

 

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Truckoff–Carlinville Illinois

 

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Salute–Carlinville Illinois

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2014

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Jim Siergey: What’s Next?

March 17th, 2017

Three of my cartooning compatriots have died in recent months, two of them within ten days of each other. A lot of other artists of my generation, musicians, writers and performers have been departing left and right from this mortal coil.

There’s also been a fair amount of my friends, acquaintances and workmates leaving The Building of late and I miss ‘em. It appears that we’ve gotten to that age—the funeral-attending one. Thus, I find myself lately thinking about the Big D…death.

Not so much the act of dying but what may happen after that. The afterlife, if there is such a thing.

Even as a kid, I could not grasp the whole heaven and hell concept. It just seemed too severely black and white. There are evil people in the world just as there are saintly ones but most of us are somewhere in between. We’re good people that do good things but, let’s face it, we’ve all done or thought bad things in our lifetime.

Does that discount one from entering the utopian existence of heaven? It would depend on who is making the judgement. You might luck out with a Mahatma Gandhi-like judge or get stuck with an Antonin Scalia type.

I’m not very knowledgeable about religion but I think God is supposed to make those judgements. You think he’d delegate some of that work but He (or She or It) is all-knowing so I guess it must fall to Him/She/It to give the ol’ thumbs up or down.

As a kid, I went to public school but I attended Catechism classes once a week. Instead of instilling and boosting my faith, all that teaching about God and the Bible only raised questions in my little brain, which does not make for a good follower. Long ago I wandered away from the flock and place my bets with no one and nothing.

It’s the Rick Blaine in me.

Objects in Mirror

You got that right, Mr. Siergey…

There is a school of thought, or is it belief, that when one dies, one will see one’s family and friends again and even be reunited with pets. But doesn’t that also mean that you will also see your enemies or people you didn’t like as well as tons of folks you never knew? Or is everyone isolated in cubicle-like neighborhoods where the only shoulders you’ll brush will be family and friends?

I love my family and friends but I don’t know that I’d want to spend eternity with them.

There’s belief in reincarnation or maybe you come back as vapor or a collection of atoms or as a ghost. Reincarnation sounds kind of interesting but what if you reincarnate as a mayfly and live all of five minutes? That reincarnation stuff seems like a lot of changing going on and I’ve never been comfortable with too much change.

A vapor? Would a wisp of vapor have any sensuality? Could you, as vapor, enjoy? It might be fun to be able to whisk around from galaxy to galaxy in the universe but if you don’t have the ability to appreciate or remember anything, why bother?

Ghosts? How long before the thrill of scaring people wears off? And what if I just want to be their friend? You know what the response to that is…”EEK! A ghost!” At least, according to Casper the Friendly Ghost comic books.

Maybe whatever happens to you after you die is whatever you believe will happen. You’d sit on a cloud enjoying harp recitals or roast in flames while a video of your most embarrassing moments plays on a loop, you’d flit about like a butterfly, soar through the universe with no direction home or sit in a musty attic, invisible to all except the occasional and rare true believer.

Or, as in my case, nothing. I feel that once you die, that’s it. Nada, zilch, nil, zippo, diddley squat, bupkus, goose egg, 1506 nix nix.

Maybe.

Who knows? Who cares? The only person there and back was Ulysses and he was a fictional character. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen, happens or doesn’t.

What’s meaningful is to be good to yourself and to others while you’re alive and, in the immortal words of Warren Zevon when asked for advice upon hearing that he had a short time left to live, “Enjoy every sandwich”.

Make mine on rye.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Hell’s Bells

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Jim Siergey: Hell’s Bells

March 13th, 2017

Vile things, these peppers be.

That’s what I have to say about green peppers, all bell peppers in fact, but especially the green ones. But, not all peppers.

I will eat and enjoy any type of chile pepper: Jalapeno, poblano, habanero, cayenne, serrano, rocoto (this one is pretty damn hot). And I can’t enjoy a hot dog without a generous sprinkling of sport peppers. Bring ‘em on. I welcome you with open taste buds.

But, green peppers… No Way, Keyser Söze.

My body has the same reaction now to green peppers that it did when I was a child. It’s one distaste that I did not outgrow.

I’m not allergic to ‘em, they merely react in an unlikeable and undesirable way. Firstly, they leave a horrible taste in my mouth. Secondly, they tend to make me burp, the aftermath which makes the horrible taste in my mouth even more horrible.

It’s akin to the aftertaste of having smoked a cigar that had been marinated in sewer water and then encased in a humidor that was lined with spoiled lunchmeat.

Akin.

I try my best to avoid them but it ain’t always easy. In Thai and Chinese restaurants I will scour their menus and read the lists of ingredients listed with each dish. Some will go into great detail, listing a who’s who of vegetables and spices found in a particular dish with green peppers not appearing…except on my plate when the dish was served.

It’s as if it’s a given to expect green peppers to always be part of any meal!

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What would these boys say about peppers?

 

If I couldn’t trade my inedible dish with a fortunate someone whose food was GP-free, I would have to resort to the meticulous task of separating the repugnant chunks, strips or (Heaven help me!) diced green peppers away from my food the best I could. This approach was never entirely successful because, after all, the food had already been tainted by merely co-mingling with the vile intruders.

I used to feel so alone with my green pepper animus. But, over the years I have become aware of more and more people who share the same detestation of this jade-colored plant, which shouldn’t even be called a pepper at all.

Botanically speaking, bell peppers are fruit, although they are considered a vegetable in a culinary context. But what can a poor boy do, ‘cept to sing in a rock’n’roll band? (©Richards & Jagger)

Anyway, I’m happy to report that the number of green pepper objectors is growing. Who knows, it may even turn into a movement. The time is ripe to UNITE!

Now, I know there are lots of people who enjoy bell peppers of all colors, even green, but if they (the peppers, not the people) were removed from the face of the earth, would they really be missed that much?

I think not.

I just hope that I live long enough to see “Vile things, these peppers be” enscribed upon a tombstone.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Mr. Lynch

 

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Randolph Street: Sunny Days

March 8th, 2017

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Beachgirl–Chicgo

 

 

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Gangway–Chicago

 

 

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Beachgirls–Chicago

 

 

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Uptown–Chicago

 

 

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Beachgirl–Chicago

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

 

 

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Jim Siergey: Mr. Lynch

March 8th, 2017

The world recently lost another cartoonist with the passing of Jay Lynch.

Jay was a cartoonist, satirist and counterculture archivist. He and Skip Williamson were the provocateurs behind Bijou Funnies, which along with Zap Comix were two of the earliest “underground comix” that came out in the 1960s.

He was also one of the creators behind such generation-warping juvenalia as Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids. He also spent many years writing gags for Bazooka Joe comics as well as contributing cartoons to such high-tone magazines as Cracked, Mad and Playboy.

He also knew an awful lot about solvents and all kinds of arcane printing processes and tools, as well as comic strip history.

It was in a class on the history of the American comic strip that he was teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the summer of 1971 where I first met Jay. Besides all the interesting tidbits he would deliver orally, there were slides, movies of animated films from the ‘30s and guest speakers such as Bill Mauldin, Hy Roth, Skip Williamson and Robert Crumb.

Our final project was to create a comic strip story. It was my first experience drawing with India ink and using Zip-a-Tone as well as ruling out borders and using a lettering guide. Jay liked what I did, making some positive comments and even laughed at a couple of my attempts at humor.

Thus, Jay kind of became my mentor as I was lured down the ink-stained boulevard that headed into Cartoon Town. The jury is still out as to whether I should thank or curse him for opening this pathway up to me but it was where I chose to meander.

JAYLYNCH002Jay Lynch–1945-2017…

 

 

Jay’s cartooning style had a very 1930s feel to it. He was a meticulous draftsman, using lots of different types of cross-hatching and shading that made his drawings leap from the page.He specialized in crowd scenes that had characters and items perfectly placed in an overlapping layout without any wasted space. He was a cartoon choreographer.

He was also an excellent painter. His cartoony surreal paintings are the prized collections of many a Lynchian enthusiast. He was very generous in doing commissioned drawings as well as answering queries and dispensing advice to anyone who asked.

Via Jay, I made some contacts and had some of my stories printed in a few underground comics. I also worked with Jay on other projects i.e. doing inking for Duckman comics, the backs of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and a series of Topps baseball cards that included the Bazooka Joe characters in baseball outfits and poses.

Jay’s apartment had an entire room filled floor to ceiling with filing cabinets filled with items of historical note as well as every letter he had ever received since 1958. This entire repository of comic lore is now safely housed at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, Ohio.

Jay wrote, and Gary Whitney drew, a comic strip entitled Phoebe and the Pigeon People that appeared regularly in the weekly Chicago Reader alternative press newspaper. Phoebe was an elderly woman sitting on a park bench who fed and conversed with a group of pigeons that had human heads and emotions.

This strip began in 1978 and ran until 1990. 1990 was the year I took the inking reins from Gary, who voluntarily handed them over as he headed off to other ventures. It was a proud moment for me.

However, my fondest memories were of working with Jay and Carole Sobocinski as we pulled all-nighters creating and producing a politico-humor tabloid called The Chicago Spitune back in the late 1980s. It was as close to a Dick Van Dyke Show-type working relationship as one could ever hope to dream. We even had the correct gender make up as we took turns cracking each other up during those creative outputs.

A decade or so ago, Jay moved to upstate New York and resided in a little town called Candor, a perfectly-named place for a cartoonist. I last spoke to him a few weeks before he died in which he was instrumental in me obtaining a comp copy of Paul Krassner’s collection of cartoons that appeared in The Realist, a hefty tome in which a handful of my cartoons were included.

The book has an incredible full color wraparound cover of one of Jay’s intense crowd scenes, a drawing that would have killed me if I had attempted it. In our conversation, Jay told me he had lung cancer and had also lost the use of his hands except for his right forefinger and thumb so he was still able to draw a little bit.

A cartoonist to the very end. Rest in peace, Maestro. Um Tut Sut.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Caught Looking

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Jim Siergey: Caught Looking

March 5th, 2017

The enclosed photo was posted online with the caption “Wrigley Field 1959”.

One commenter commented that it couldn’t be 1959 because the Cubs were so terrible in the 1950s that, attendance-wise, they averaged 11,000 a game. Another commenter countered thusly: “I think this photo was taken on Sunday, June 14, 1959 against the Milwaukee Braves, the defending NL Champions. It was a Sunday and drew 36,895.”

This comment made my heart skip a beat. After sipping some chamomile tea and having a sit-down with a warm washcloth draped across my forehead, my heartbeat returned to a natural rhythm.

The reason for my cardiac hippety-hop was that the very first baseball game I ever attended was in 1959 at Wrigley Field where the Cubs played the Braves. This photo was very likely taken the same day I was there!

Oops. Time for another hit of tea.

The Milwaukee Braves had appeared in the World Series for two years in a row so they were a big draw, which explains the unusually large crowd at “The Friendly Confines”. My father worked for a trucking company and may have obtained a pair of tickets that may have “fallen off a truck”. What did I know? I was nine years old.

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Hey, hey–Sammy Taylor!

 

I was a disappointment in many ways to my father, who rarely let me forget it, but I was also The Son so he took me to the game. My first baseball game. I knew next to nothing about the sport except that I liked the White Sox.

The seats we had were at the same point of view that this photo was taken but I believe we were closer to the field. I remember there being lots and lots of people and that, to my father’s chagrin, I booed every Cubs batter that came up to the plate.

I was true blue down to my White Sox.

The Cubs lost that game 5-2 despite Cubs catcher Sammy Taylor hitting a home run clear out of the park. I mistakenly thought Sammy’s stadium-clearing swat was a “Grand Slam” as it indeed was a grand slam but I was eventually corrected of my terminological faux pas, along with another swat.

It is an interesting photo to study. It is the pre-JFK era so almost every man is wearing a hat of some sort. No baseball caps. Baseball caps were for kids. No Jumbotron or signage blocking the views of the buildings across the street. No rooftop bleachers. No well-manicured field either.

Perhaps we were in the midst of a grass-browning heat wave that summer.

My father finally took me a White Sox game the following year. The Go-Go Sox were playing the Yankees. I was quite excited about getting to see the great Mickey Mantle play.

To my disappointment, The Mick spent the game on the bench. Perhaps he was injured. Perhaps he was nursing a hangover. Without mighty #7 in the lineup the White Sox beat the hated Yanks 1-0 when, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Al Smith was hit by a pitch.

Not as exciting as a grand slam but, that’s baseball.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Jawbone Pain…

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